Top digital darkroom software for digital photographers

  1. Software designed for advanced amateur and professional photographers
  2. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic (Windows and Macintosh)
  3. What do we like?
  4. What we don’t like
  5. DxO PhotoLab (Windows and Macintosh)
  6. What do we like?
  7. What we don’t like
  8. Alien Skin Exposure X4 (for Windows and Macintosh)
  9. What do we like?
  10. What we don’t like
  11. ACDSee Photo Studio Pro (Windows)
  12. What do we like?
  13. What we don’t like
  14. RawTherapee (Windows, OS X and Linux)
  15. What do we like?
  16. What we don’t like
  17. PictureWindow Pro (Windows)
  18. What do we like?
  19. What we don’t like
  20. Capture One Stage One (Windows and Macintosh)
  21. What do we like?
  22. What we don’t like
  23. virtual photographer (Windows)
  24. What do we like?
  25. What we don’t like

Software designed for advanced amateur and professional photographers

Digital Darkroom software is designed to simulate darkroom techniques with digital photos. This software provides advanced tools for advanced amateur, fine art and professional photographers. It generally doesn’t have the pixel-level drawing, painting, and editing tools that a generic photo editor would, and it may or may not offer features for organizing and sharing your photos. Some are plug-ins for other programs like Photoshop, and most support raw camera files.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic (Windows and Macintosh)

What do we like?

  • Clean interface.

  • Powerful filters.

  • Excellent organization of functions.

  • Control exposure, color and sharpness.

What we don’t like

  • Expensive compared to competitors.

  • Does not replace Photoshop’s strengths.

  • Slow to create complex images.

Through a series of modules, Lightroom Classic CC helps photographers manage, design, and showcase their photos. It’s clear that Adobe has put a lot of effort into meeting the needs of photographers in a photo lab with Lightroom. Lightroom is best suited for serious amateur and professional photographers who work with a lot of images and who often work with raw file files.

Adobe offers two versions of Lightroom: Lightroom CC for consistent features across mobile and desktop platforms, and Lightroom Classic CC with robust desktop editing features.

DxO PhotoLab (Windows and Macintosh)

What do we like?

  • Advanced processing and correction tools.

  • Premium noise cancellation.

  • Easy to use disguise.

  • Strong selection of presets.

What we don’t like

  • Not much attention is paid to workflow tools.

  • No panel history or image rotation button.

  • Unable to rename the image during export.

DxO PhotoLab (formerly DxO Optics Pro) automatically corrects Raw and JPEG images based on detailed analysis of hundreds of camera and lens sensor combinations. DxO PhotoLab intelligently corrects distortion, vignetting, lens softness, chromatic aberration, tonal distortion, noise reduction, dust removal, white balance, exposure, contrast and more. DxO PhotoLab automatically delivers impressive batch processing results for multiple images, but also allows manual adjustments for creative control. DxO PhotoLab can work alongside Adobe Lightroom and there is a detailed document on how to use the two programs together. DxO PhotoLab is not very complicated, but a well-written user guide will help you get the most out of it.

DxO PhotoLab is available in the Essential and Elite edition, with the Elite edition offering support for high-quality cameras in addition to all the hardware combinations included in the Essential edition. The DxO website offers an online tool to help you choose the version you want, and you can download a free 30-day trial.

Alien Skin Exposure X4 (for Windows and Macintosh)

What do we like?

  • Powerful, completely non-destructive photo editor.

  • Individual presets and a wide range of movie effects.

  • Organize libraries with smart collections, keywords, and tags.

What we don’t like

  • No multi-layer composites.

  • not fully integrate GPS information.

  • There is no way to flip the image vertically or horizontally.

Alien Skin Exposure X4 is an advanced, non-destructive raw image editing software. Previously, Exposure was a plug-in designed to accurately simulate the look of film in your digital photos. It comes with a set of presets that mimic the look of Velvia, Kodachrome, Ektachrome, GAF 500, TRI-X, Ilford, and many other film types. It also provides controls to adjust the color, tone, focus, and graininess of your photos. Exposure X4’s advanced features go way beyond this plug-in to provide top-notch image editing.

ACDSee Photo Studio Pro (Windows)

What do we like?

  • Polish in vibrancy, saturation and hue.

  • Transform images with smart erase and edge detection.

  • Face recognition and marking.

  • Simple digital asset management.

What we don’t like

  • No layers.

  • The interface is not as polished as some competing products.

  • Does not work with PDF files.

Over the years, ACDSee has evolved from a simple image viewer to a full-featured photo manager, and now there’s a version of Photo Studio Pro with advanced features and Camera Raw support for photographers. ACDSee Photo Studio Pro provides the tools to view, process, edit, organize and share your photos at a price that is far below the competition.

RawTherapee (Windows, OS X and Linux)

What do we like?

  • Open source, non-destructive RAW image processor.

  • Easy to use with many features.

  • Excellent wiki documentation.

  • Impressive automatic results.

What we don’t like

  • Does not sort images into folders.

  • The history is reset when the image is opened.

  • Busy interface.

RawTherapee is a powerful and complete free Raw converter for Windows and Linux users. Raw Therapee provides all the features you need for advanced raw material conversion and processing. It supports many popular camera brands and models and offers options for exposure control, shadow/highlight compression, white balance correction, powerful image sharpening, and reduction of brightness and color noise. Raw Therapee can output processed files in JPEG, TIFF or PNG format. As a free program, Raw Therapee can be helpful if you’re still deciding whether the Raw workflow is right for you.

PictureWindow Pro (Windows)

What do we like?

  • Extensive retouching tools.

  • Zonal transformations.

  • Scanner and ICC camera profiling.

What we don’t like

  • No longer under development.

  • No further updates are planned.

  • The interface shows its age.

Picture Windows Pro from Digital Light & Color is designed for photographers and offers image management, image editing, batch processing, raw file support, and printing and electronic output tools. The Windows Pro image is free to download.

Capture One Stage One (Windows and Macintosh)

What do we like?

  • Annotate images with notes or drawings.

  • Multi-level workflow.

  • Color options to correct skin tone.

What we don’t like

  • Raw format is not supported for some cameras.

  • No facial recognition.

  • There is no directory system.

Phase One Capture One is a raw converter and image editor with tools to capture, organize, edit, share and print your images. Capture One is primarily designed for professional photographers, especially studio photographers, who will appreciate the excellent shooting capabilities of the Pro version. Capture One is available as paid and subscription packs with or without additional style packs.

virtual photographer (Windows)

What do we like?

  • Simple interface

  • Contains color and black and white presets.

  • Interesting effects based on imaginary film speeds.

What we don’t like

  • For Windows 98 and earlier.

  • No longer under development.

Virtual Photographer is a fun and easy plug-in that adds dramatic and artistic effects to your photos. The free software allows you to experiment with a wide variety of color and black and white photographic effects by controlling color, film speed, film type and effects.

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